Remember when Nokia wanted to give a lesson regarding software patents to Free Software people? Like «they’re ‘m’kay? We know best, m’kay?»
Well, I was really anxious about the Nokia N900, the 4th Nokia GNU/Linux internet device which now has the ability to make phone calls! It’s an impressive device… cell phone (3G, yay), camera with enough resolution, GPS, wifi, decent graphics card, powerful processor, a half-decent amount of memory, more than decent storage, etc…
It is also being branded as so “open” that software freedom lovers would love it. This seemed like really good news, no? Well, like the saying goes… when it’s too good to be true… it most probably ain’t.
I tried to figure out how “open” the device is, and wasn’t really happy. After more than 70 comments, Quim (who works at Nokia) spills the guts:
Nobody claims Maemo is the 100% free mobile OS and the N900 is the 100% free mobile device. I claim is currently the most interesting combination for a free software lover thanks to its standard Linux stack, possibility to modify the platform and access to the root. The % closed helps Nokia getting a sustainable business model and reaching consumer appeal.
Well, nice claim, but it is the idea that you (and Nokia) are selling. And worse of all, you seem to pretend that in 100% of an operating system, all % are of equal value. They’re not. The minimum percentage that is proprietary is essential for Nokia’s GNU/Linux devices to work. Take it away, and they won’t work, or might even burn in your pocket. Period.
If 100% freedom is your goal Maemo 5 and N900 is a good starting point.
No it’s not. There’s better if you want 100% freedom, what OpenMoko started. The company may now only be selling Freerunners to resellers who want to keep on with the business, but there’s new sources of hardware showing up (thanks go mainly to John ‘MadDog’ Hall who’s been in talks with the University of São Paulo, in Brasil), so no, the phone is not dead. It is actually growing a lot better and faster now it’s free from the corporate strings of OpenMoko, which partly restricted the flow of things.
But I digress, let’s get back to Nokia and its bullshit and insults to the Free Software community (I use Free Software because I prefer to talk about freedom, but these insults and bulshit also apply to you, Open Source guys, so pay attention).
There’s a wiki page in Maemo explaining why there are some proprietary software. That page needs to be passed by the bullshit filter, like I said in my comment, Nokia is far from being friendly to Free Software. They’re actually quite aggressive and strongly lobby for the legalization of software patents in Europe. Don’t be fooled by the sugar coating, they are not your friend. So what is in the wiki page after you pass the bullshit filter?
- Brand We think that “open source” reduces our brand value
- Differentiation Proprietary software is much better, just use it
- Legacy We don’t want to be shamed by the garbage we forcefeed upon you
- IPR & licensing issues Software Patents are good, just buy the freaking licenses from us.
- Security Since we sell dangerous products, we take your freedom away so you don’t make the mistake of getting proof they’re crap (like their batteries, which the phones must know the limits of)
- Third party Just accept that we know best and choose from the best
While the “security” aspect could be of some value for some people, let me give you an example of how much crap it is:
Nokia’s batteries are dumb. So dumb, in fact, that their phones have to know what batteries they carry in order to not overcharge.
What if the battery was smarter, and had a way to tell the operating system it’s full? If a little company like OpenMoko had it, why wouldn’t Nokia have it? It’s one of the most dangerous equipments in the phone, so I guess that’s what they refer to when they talk about security and some of the energy related software is *closed*.
That’s evidence of crappy hardware.
Sorry, disappointing. Will wait for the competition unless this changes.
BTW, someone said that even OpenMoko has some proprietary software… well, as Mickey Laurer explained it…
«There’s a difference between closed firmware providing a standard protocol and a proprietary ASIC providing a closed-source binary driver using a proprietary command language to talk to the hardware.
None of the Nxx tablets are fully functional with free software. The FreeRunner is.»
Indeed it is!
root@om-gta02 ~ $ cat /proc/sys/kernel/tainted 0
So there you go! There’s much better, in terms of freedom, so don’t settle for less just because it’s fancier.
Demand more! It’s your right as a software user, and your power as a consumer.
47 Replies to “Nokia’s Free Software bullshit and insults in Maemo”
Thanks for this overview. You are right, I was very exited when I read the N900 anouncement 🙁
Since I really appreciate the work of the gta02core team, I want to mention that this project (build an open source phone with open source tools) is mainly developed by Werner Almesberger and others. However, John ‘MadDog’ Hall initiated some usefull exchange between the project members and the University.
While I do not want to defend Nokia too much, I think you should not forget that Nokia is a big enterprise, and thus speaking of it as one entity is a little bit misleading, there is differents divisions and differents peoples inside Nokia.
More ever, while I also think N900 is not really open enough, but at least, Nokia is transparent about why part of the plateform are closed. While you disagree with the reasons, I think the picture is not as simple as it sound.
I also think they are trying to do the right thing by trying to open it. It would be utopic to believe that one of the biggest phone maker can change the culture of all managers in a few years. Most managers are prudents and conservatists. It is easy to say “this is bullshit” from outside, but I think people who are trying to make a difference by pushing free software as far as they can need more considerations.
And while we should not forget that Nokia didn’t fully open everything, we should be happy that they are trying to make a step in the right direction, instead of mourning the fact they didn’t do all the steps we would have loved them to do.
But such is human mind to focus on what he lost instead on what he got.
But sadly all free initiatives are far behind.
Freerunner doesn’t come close to the N900 hardware wise (from the end-user perspective).
If it does, I would happily pay the 600 € to you instead of Nokia 🙂
Now, I don’t want to defend Nokia in any way, Maemo is never going to be the same ‘Open’ as OpenMoko is (and Android isn’t either), Nokia do just treat ‘Open’ as some sort of branding that they think the kids will dig.
But, I think your tirade went a little off the rails with the battery thing. The phone needs to verify that it is a genuine Nokia battery, as they charge it a lot more aggressively than usual, this means they have to be certain of the quality and tolerances, otherwise it will catch fire! And that hurts sales. You could argue that they abuse this feature to not charge non-Nokia batteries, but that’s a different issue, and you should note that the Neo’s will not charge a Nokia battery either!
I’m not focusing on what was lost instead of what I got. I’m focusing on what I got. And what I “got” (because if this doesn’t change I won’t buy it, for sure), is another proprietary device built upon Free Software.
If I (and others) don’t complain about this fact, the guys who made the decision to have it this way will be happy and claim “mission accomplished”. I won’t give them that satisfaction just because it uses GNU/Linux underneath it.
What hurts sales is crappy hardware. It’s the battery’s function to know when it’s ok to charge or not.
If the phone has to have specific proprietary knowledge about the battery in order to charge it and not let it catch fire, it’s because they use dumb batteries which don’t know when to stop charging.
You’re misinformed. They do charge them but, of course, perhaps until it blows or catches fire.
Because the battery is dumb and doesn’t stop charging, and the OS has no way to guess when to stop. It’s proprietary knowledge.
Come on, it’s a 4th generation device, which is about to be released. Of course it’s much better. It’s a known fact that OpenMoko (the company) wasn’t successfull. If they had launched the phone at the initially predicted time with a reasonably stable release, it would be better than the (then) current iPhoney.
As it is, when it came out it was already below standard hardware capabilities. Plus, if 10.000 3G enabled OpenMokos were ordered, each of them would cost about 200 USD more due to 3G licensing. Nokia of course won’t have that cost but a much smaller one.
But still, the N900 could be the best open device I can get in the next 1-2 years, so probably a lot of Linux guys will step out and buy one 🙂
It’s not an open device, that’s the whole point. It’s being advertised as an open device, but it isn’t. Essential components require proprietary software.
I hope (perhaps in vain) that not many GNU/Linux users get so fooled by fancy looks.
It saddens me to here this. I hoped it would be open.
I have a Freerunner, and I can’t (because of principles) change to a new phone because no one will make something this open again. I hope Openmoko soon finish “project b” and continue on making the successor of the Freerunner.
@Esben: don’t be so sad, the University of São Paulo, Brasil, will very likely produce new models!
I think we are being too harsh toward Nokia here! After all, Nokia is NOT a company created from scratch for Free and Open Source Software. For a long time, it stuck in proprietary model. Thus, I think that it is reasonable to accept some compromises which will (hopefully) eventually go away.
For example, all of the reasons of why Maemo is not fully Free/Open can be catergorized into two groups:
* Our CEOs/Managers/Sale people/etc. are too dump/reluctant to accept fully free/open software (Brand, Differentiation, Legacy; gosh, the term “unclear outcomes” should ring some bells, right?)
* Our past business model has some “heritages” left (IPR & licensing issues, Security, Third party).
As you see, they are, to some extents, rather acceptable, provided the sway of power that Nokia holds. After all, technical people don’t have that much power in a large enough corporate.
Lastly, I think we should consider this: Nokia, different from Google, proudly calls its product (GNU/)Linux. Compare this to Google, please. There is about nothing in Android resemble a standard GNU/Linux, except a (heavily modified, I suspect) kernel. To most people, the term Linux in Android is hidden as far as possible. To the rest, Linux kernel is used not because Google appreciate GPL license, but because they want to gain the namesake (evident in the fact that most other components are rewritten).
Lastly, compare to OpenMoko, N900 is likely to move much much more people to Free Software. This is, by and large, a good thing. And, compare to Windows Mobile and iPhone, it is infinitely more open and free. We should cherish these facts and flatter Nokia a bit, should we not?
Your are too naïve. If you don’t complain, they won’t change.
So you think popularity is more important than freedom? I guess you have different values from me, then.
Besides, that’s beyond the point: Nokia is not our friend, and it insults us. As much merit as the technical teams may have, if this is the status quo they have no power on the company, so there’s no way Nokia is our friend.
If you accept this as a good compromise, Nokia will never change because it has no reason to.
I will not accept it, and I invite others not to, as well.
I hope Nokia never make a completely free device. We don’t want zealots in our community.
By the contrary, your comment would surely point out that there are zealots of anti-zealotry. Fortunately you’re nothing but an anonymous coward who represents nothing.
It is not zealotry to point out that the N900 is not an open phone (as it’s being advertised), that Nokia is a strong lobby pro-software-patents, and as such Nokia is not our friend, and that it shows in their attitude of continuous contempt.
They’re very happy to reap fruits from the work of thousands, and give shackles in return. I’m sorry it hurts a few fanboys’ feelings.
About comment moderation: In the next few days I’m absolutely not sure how frequently I can come here and approve comments held into the moderation queue.
Don’t be paranoid if yours doesn’t show up as quickly as the previous comments.
When mentioning Nokia, the series 60 and symbian also comes to mind.
A true highlight of Nokia at hard at work at killing a good idea, and a nice outlook on how they might treat linux. Oh, and those tatters of Symbian remaining are now (incomplete) open source. Gee, thanx.
If you remember the builtin capabilities of one of the last real psions like a series5 and compare that to a bloated s60, you’ll get a real long list of ‘feature has been removed’, ‘feature crippled’. Intentionally removed features, quite possibly to both promote this nokia software store thing (you’d need extras for way over $100 to fix the worst crippling). Add to this lack of updates, lock-in, planned obsolescence (would make for a nice campaign: obsolescence-by-design…).
I certainly will keep that kind of Nokia (subjective) history in mind when considering Android (unlikely) or Nokia (NOT) : firmware and another hypervisor compartment and frequency laws is one thing, intentionally crippling the userspace in the name of control to disallow fixing bugs oneself to mimic i-$tore is a quite something different.
My conclusion: debian standard userspace WITHOUT constant jailbreaking _is_ required to overcome planned software obsolescence: hardware itself gets obsolescent quite quickly enough, thanx. The ipkg approach for the Zauri wasn’t really bad but IMHO isn’t really sustainable on its own.
And I’ll gladly pay extra to avoid suffering from an intentionally provider-$tore-crippled mobile (like most Androids currently seem to be). Upto and including considering to split my use into a dumb phone and say a sharp z1. Not that my current Series60 offers more ‘uses’ than a dumb brick (other than featuring a list of empty buzz words, lack of battery and excess weight).
“While I do not want to defend Nokia too much, I think you should not forget that Nokia is a big enterprise, and thus speaking of it as one entity is a little bit misleading, there is differents divisions and differents peoples inside Nokia.”
Nokia is one entity. It’s called a corporation. If it wants different entities to be regarded as different entities, it can spin them off. If its people want to make clear that it’s just them as a person talking, they can do that too. I don’t see that in this discussion.
It’s one of the things I like and hate at the same time about this theme, it’s still not a final decision what it’ll be, but I don’t have much time right now to keep searching for themes I like which are compatible with this wordpress version (the previous one had a few problems).
I like reading the thoughts of someone actually closer to the development process.
I’ve already doubted the role of Nokia in FOSS.
They’re as already mentioned just awfully lobbying for more commercial and closed software in Europe.
And what’s with up with their laptop, running a Windows 7 variant?
>But I digress, let’s get back to Nokia and its bullshit and insults to the Free Software community (I use Free Software because I prefer to talk about freedom, but these insults and bulshit also apply to you, Open Source guys, so pay attention).
I’m sorry, but free software and open source is the same thing. Thank you!
I very much welcome your blog post. In the past I hoped that I could at least start a little discussion about free software and IT OS. I hoped that we would see more parts of the system software opened. See https://bugs.maemo.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1584
To this day I had the impression that not many people in the Maemo world are interested in having 100% free software-based devices.
I believe that whatever the devices can do can be reverse engineered by an experienced person. However that would be a cruel job in my opinion. As such I started by good example and provided money in exchange for such difficult jobs. Here is such an offer:
Again I hoped that 2-3 people would join me and the person doing such a job would at least get a nice financial reward. Unfortunately that did not work out so far.
Maybe if you want you can blog about these things and some thing would start rolling.
Btw: I also share your perspective on the non-freeness of the Android platform. We are in good company here:
The community is already demanding more and doing things:
let me nitpick
~ $ cat /proc/sys/kernel/tainted
~ $ uname -a
Linux Nokia-N900-xx 2.6.28-omap1 #1 PREEMPT day mon 2 15:34:40 EEST 2009 armv7l unknown.
so there you go!
the battery chargin happens in userland. genuine nokia batteries have protections and are not “dumb”, but some compatible and pirate batteries may not be. therefor trusting only the reading from the battery would be risky. but that is only one point why it hasn’t ended up being opensourced.
while nokia has many free software loving employees, as a company money $$ gets first priority. openmoko is a great example what happens when a company puts another value ahead of $$. it is also a great example of perfect being the enemy of good. insisting on completly free hardware left them with uncompetitive hardware and leading free sofware hackers getting unemployed. meanwhile free software people at nokia continued to release free software like bluez for the consumption of openmoko users..
Your remarks about OpenMoko try to suggest they failed because they wanted to be a fully Free Software device. Sorry, wrong. False statement.
In my perception of the events (and as a happy Freerunner user I followed it quite closely) they made lots of management mistakes, not the least of which trusting Samsung.
Then came along a serious economic downturn, and I’m sure FIC pushed the layoffs button: «you’re not making money and we need to cut costs, so even though you could be something big, it’s not the moment».
Nokia, on the other hand, is a hugely successful company, with lots of money. There’s simply no excuse.
Oh, and I forgot one thing about Linux taint, in order to work around the taint flag (which shows off a lot of bad karma) many vendors opt for having a non-taint thin layer around the real driver. The thin layer is compatible with the GPL, but then it loads a blob which is the real driver.
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Let’s bring down Nokia!, I’ve not even own any phone (you know, my freerunner never arrived, so I better use… well… well… never mind, back to this suckers) they don’t deserve the right to earn any money by false promises!
How they dare to take away my right to endless compilations? I want my super-custom-optimized kernel, I’m cool, who cares what you think.
Openmoko miserably failed and Nokia made an awesome Linux phone. Why are you so jealous?
Nokia is claiming that they have made an open phone. They have never claimed it’s 100% open. Yes it has some closed source drivers, telephony stack is also closed. It’s not fully open and it will never be. But they are getting more open after every release and you should applaud them for that. n900 is not an open phone for you, that’s fine. But it is for a lot of other people. Especially if you compare it with Iphone.
This is not a matter of jealousy, it’s a matter of contradicting the false freedomness Nokia is advertising.
But let me make something clear to you:
OpenMoko (the company), with an infinitesimally smaller fraction of money and human resources failed miserabilly.
Nokia, with a huge finantial and human resources background, still reserves the right to laugh in your face and claim the phone is open.
That’s factually wrong. Quim (a Nokia employee) specifically claimed Software freedom lovers would love it.
So it is a fact that they were trying to market it as being 100% free. They only backed down from it after the outrage of the insults.
But there’s more you opt to ignore, like the reasons they keep certain packages closed. They do reveal the real mentality of Nokia. If the good engineers can’t change that, then they have no real power and whatever they say in this regard is to be ignored: Nokia is the enemy, not the friend that some try to promote.
I swear I only saw 1 spam comment in the spam moderation queue, but when I eleminated it, WordPress claimed to erase 4 spam comments.
If you think your comment is missing, please post again and accept my apologies.
“That’s factually wrong. Quim (a Nokia employee) specifically claimed Software freedom lovers would love it.
So it is a fact that they were trying to market it as being 100% free.”
No it isn’t! 98% code would be open(or even more) and no one is hiding that. It’s subjective to call it open or closed.
Let me ask you a question: your friend is having a change of mind, asking you for advice which phone to buy. Iphone or N900. He is not a free or opensource dude, he doesn’t know nothing about it and probably don’t care. What would you tell him: buy whatever you like, it’s the same closed crap? You do remember Nokia is investing heavily in Free and open source? Maemo, Trolltech, Symbian soon.
“But there’s more you opt to ignore, like the reasons they keep certain packages closed”
No, I am not ignoring it. This is pretty much obvious, everybody know the reasons. If they made every package completely free, which they CAN, everybody can make exactly the same copy of phone. Which means much less profit.
“Nokia is the enemy, not the friend that some try to promote.”
Enemy to who? Enemy to you and RMS?
2%? Firstly, I’d like to see that number adequately checked out. Secondly, who said those 2% don’t carry most of the value?
Don’t hide behind such figures, because they’re not that small.
If he’s someone who, like you, don’t give a damn about his rights, I’d probably tell him that both are proprietary crap, but the N900 is a little less so.
You do remember Nokia is strongly lobbying for software patents in Europe?
You do remember Nokia is against Ogg?
Firstly, yes, you’re ignoring them (real proof comes from you, it’s not it, it’s them).
To anyone who values their software freedom. Evidently you do not value them, and you are opposed to people who value them, because you come here and utterly fail in your attempt to insult me with your last remark.
Comments are closed.